Raul Hilberg

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Raul Hilberg (born June 2, 1926 in Vienna , † August 4, 2007 in Williston , Vermont , USA ) was an American historian and Holocaust researcher of Austrian origin and Jewish faith . With the multiple updated version of his dissertation The Destruction of the European Jews ("The annihilation of the European Jews") he wrote the standard work on the history of the Holocaust .


Raul Hilberg was born in 1926 as the son of a small trader. In March 1938, in Vienna, he experienced the “ Anschluss of Austria ” to National Socialist Germany . His Jewish parents, originally from Galicia , fled with him to the USA in April 1939 via France and Cuba. In Brooklyn , New York City, he attended Abraham Lincoln High School. From 1944 he served in the US Army (45th Infantry Division). His division was involved in the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp . In the Brown House in Munich quartered as a soldier, he came shortly after the war in parts of the private library rarely used Adolf Hitler . Hilberg then came to the War Documentation Department , which was tasked with researching documents that could be used to prosecute war criminals .

From 1948 he attended the lectures of the emigrant Hans Rosenberg on the history of the Prussian civil service at Brooklyn College . In the same year he moved to Columbia University to study with the socialist lawyer Franz Neumann . His study of the National Socialist dictatorship, Behemoth , had made a deep impression on Hilberg. He began his master's thesis in 1948 and was already discussing his planned dissertation, The Destruction of European Jewry . In 1951 he received a temporary position in the War Documentation Project under the direction of Fritz T. Epstein . Until his doctorate he had to teach political science at various universities after his doctoral supervisor and supporter Neumann died in an accident in 1954. In 1955 he received a professorship at the small university in Burlington , Vermont , where he taught and researched until his retirement in 1991. With the diary of Adam Czerniaków , the chairman of the Warsaw Ghetto Elders , Hilberg published one of the most impressive testimonies of the persecution in 1979. For Claude Lanzmann's epic “ Shoah ” film documentary, Hilberg read and commented on excerpts from Czerniaków's diary. Hilberg died at the age of 81 from recurring lung cancer without ever having been a smoker. His first marriage was to Christine Hemenway. He had two children from this marriage and his second wife Gwendolyn née Montgomery.


For his 1954 finished major work The Destruction of the European Jews (In German The Destruction of the European Jews ) Hilberg countless sources evaluated in order to analyze the entire history of the Holocaust. It was only after an odyssey of six years through five publishers that his dissertation was published by the small American publisher Quadrangle Books (Chicago) ( The Destruction of the European Jews , 1961). A wealthy patron, Frank Petschek, financed a print run of 5,500 copies in order to at least be able to offer them to libraries. Yad Vashem historians criticized Hilberg's critical assessment of active and passive Jewish resistance. Hans Mommsen cites the following reason for this defense: “At the beginning of the 1950s, almost all survivors, including the Jewish associations in the USA, as well as international historical research, tended to downplay the memory of the Holocaust, even to suppress it.” Hannah Arendt , who wrote an expert opinion on Hilberg's dissertation in 1959, initially met with rejection of his meticulous investigation. On October 22, 2012, Yad Vashem hosted an international symposium on the occasion of the publication of the Hebrew translation of Hilberg's main work.

The German publisher Droemer Knaur , which had acquired the rights to Hilberg's work in 1963, decided against publishing the book at the end of 1965. According to Götz Aly, a negative report from the Institute for Contemporary History played a role . As Aly found out, Knaur Fritz Bolle's chief editor also had a past as an administrator in a National Socialist forced labor camp. The publishers Rowohlt and Beck also rejected a publication, others remained silent on the subject. This prompted Heinz Höhne 1979 levels to speak of a "for years overdue translation".

The Berlin publishing house Olle & Wolter had the extensive book translated and published it in 1982 in a hardback based on the original edition from 1961. Despite good reviews, the work reached only a small readership because of its high price due to its large size and small circulation. The equally high-priced licensed edition, which appeared in the same year 1982 in the Gutenberg Book Guild , could do little to change that. Walter Pehle , editor of contemporary history at S. Fischer Verlag , succeeded in 1990 against internal resistance in reissuing Hilberg's main work as an inexpensive paperback in three volumes. Mommsen judges that this "ended a piece of scandalous restriction on freedom of publication in the Federal Republic". In the obituary of the Frankfurter Rundschau it was complained that a "publication history of Raul Hilberg's main work [...] has not yet been written". In his lecture on October 18, 2017 at the conference Raul Hilberg and Holocaust Historiography - A Conference on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of his death , the historian Götz Aly stated that: How the Institute for Contemporary History blocked Raul Hilberg's great work on the Holocaust two expert opinions of the institute had decidedly advised against the publication of Hilberg's book.

Hilberg's comprehensive account of the Shoah remains the standard work on the subject and has been constantly updated by the author. In it, the author referred to the many people and National Socialist organizations who contributed to the decision-making process for the “final solution” through demands and initiatives.

Hilberg thus set himself apart from intentionalist historians of Nazi research such as Eberhard Jäckel , Helmut Krausnick or Klaus Hildebrand , who claimed that with the "Final Solution" Hitler had rigorously implemented his long-term plans. Similar to the functionalists among the historians, namely Martin Broszat , Hans Mommsen and Christopher Browning , Raul Hilberg interpreted the decision to adopt the Holocaust as a process-based process of cumulative radicalization, which, however, would be inconceivable without the person of Hitler:

“Hitler was the chief architect of the Jewish catastrophe. It was he who transformed the flowing ideas of 1940 into the harsh reality of 1941. Hitler made this last step the inexorable result of all anti-Jewish measures [...] and he forged Germany's decentralized administrative apparatus into a network of organizations that worked together smoothly so that the shootings , deportations and gassings could be carried out side by side and at the same time. "

- Hilberg : perpetrator, victim, spectator, p. 30.

Hilberg was of the opinion that the strict division of labor in the “final solution” had enabled the perpetrators to feel like a “little cog in the machine” and to absolve themselves of personal responsibility. This interpretation is partly controversial, according to the criticism it ignores the fact that a significant proportion was directly involved in the killing process as eyewitnesses or perpetrators.

In an interview on the occasion of a conference of the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies in 2006, Hilberg estimated the proportion of the events of the Holocaust researched up to then at 20 percent.


"This is your downfall."

- Hilberg's doctoral supervisor Franz Neumann on his doctoral project (1948)

“We learned from him that there was no comprehensive plan for the extermination of the Jews, that there was no Führer order , but that in the competition between the various institutions, the various projects turned into the most comprehensive pogrom in world history. Hilberg's declaration does not need an overpowering guide. The Apocalypse he wrote does without God and the devil. He just needs people like you and me. His starting point is not Hitler's will, but the process in which bureaucrats became perpetrators. Raul Hilberg taught us that the extermination of the Jews was not the act of some crazy anti-Semites, but a 'national act' in which the entire administration, indeed the 'entire organized society of Germany' was involved. "

- Arno Widmann, August 7, 2007

“If you were to publish a documentary on the persecution and murder of European Jews, which document would you start with?
- Perhaps with a letter that Hitler wrote in September 1919. In it he rejected the form of anti-Semitism, which was based on 'purely emotional reasons', and instead propagated' anti-Semitism of reason '- an anti-Semitism that had to lead to' a systematic legal fight 'and whose' ultimate goal was the removal of the Jews in general. That was the beginning, a political program that was rationally determined. What Hitler called 'anti-Semitism of reason', which he made a government program, led to the murder of European Jews. "

- Götz Aly and Raul Hilberg, December 10, 2002

“Before the dawn of the 20th century and its technology, a destructive spirit could not even play in the imagination with the ideas that the Nazis were supposed to put into practice. The administrator of earlier centuries did not have the tools. He didn't have today's telecommunications network; he did not have modern automatic weapons or quick-acting poison gases. Tomorrow's bureaucrat would not have these problems; he is already better equipped than the German Nazis were. Killing is not as difficult as it used to be. "

- Raul Hilberg, cit. according to Gustav Seibt, August 7, 2007

Awards (selection)


Fonts (selection)

  • The Destruction of the European Jews . Quadrangle, Chicago 1961.
    • German first edition: Edited by Ulf Wolter, from the English by Christian Seeger a. a .: The annihilation of the European Jews; the overall history of the Holocaust. Olle & Wolter, Berlin 1982, ISBN 3-88395-431-4 .
    • Current German edition: 11th, revised and expanded edition. 3 volumes in cassette. Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2010, ISBN 978-3-596-24417-1 .
  • The Role of the German Railroads in the Destruction of the Jews. Manuscript, 1976.
  • Raul Hilberg (Ed.): The Warsaw Diary of Adam Czerniaków . Prelude to Doom. Stein / Day, New York 1979, ISBN 0-8128-2523-3 .
  • Perpetrators, Victims, Bystanders: The Jewish Catastrophe 1933–1945. Aaron Asher Books, New York 1992, ISBN 0-06-019035-3 .
    • Translation: perpetrator, victim, spectator. The extermination of the Jews 1933–1945. From the American by Hans Günter Holl. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1992, ISBN 3-10-033609-7 (dedicated to Bernhard Lichtenberg , Berliner Dompropst ).
    • Paperback: Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1996, ISBN 3-596-13216-9 .
  • The Politics of Memory: The Journey of a Holocaust Historian. Ivan R. Dee, Chicago 1996, ISBN 1-56663-116-5 .
    • Translation: Unsolicited memory. The path of a Holocaust researcher. From the American by Hans Günter Holl. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1994, ISBN 3-10-033621-6 .
    • Paperback: Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2008, ISBN 978-3-596-18004-2 .
  • Sources of Holocaust Research. Ivan R. Dee, Chicago 2001, ISBN 1-56663-379-6 .
    • Translation: The Sources of the Holocaust. Decipher and interpret. From the American by Udo Rennert. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2002, ISBN 3-10-033626-7 .
  • Holocaust anatomy. Essays and memories. Edited by Walter H. Pehle , René Schlott; Translation from the American Petra Post, Andrea von Struve. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main, 2016, ISBN 978-3-10-002505-0 .


  • Alexander Osang : Hitler wasn't stupid . In: Der Spiegel . No. 49 , 2002, pp. 191-194 ( online ).
  • Andreas W. Daum , Hartmut Lehmann, James J. Sheehan (Eds.): The Second Generation: Émigrés from Nazi Germany as Historians . Berghahn Books, New York 2016, ISBN 978-1-78238-985-9 .
  • Wolfgang Mieder (Ed.): Reflections on the Holocaust. Festschrift for Raul Hilberg on his seventy-fifth birthday. Center for Holocaust Studies, University of Vermont 2001, X, 240 pp.
  • Harald Welzer : On the ruins of history. Conversations with Raul Hilberg, Hans Mommsen, Zygmunt Bauman , Edition Diskord, Tübingen 1999, ISBN 3-89295-659-6 .
  • James S. Pacy, Alan P. Wertheimer, (ed.): Perspectives on the Holocaust. Essays in honor of Raul Hilberg. Boulder, San Francisco, Oxford, Westview Press 1995, VII, 195 pp.
  • Ulf Wolter, Ursula Wolter: The ordained democracy. How much injustice in the past can the present take? In: perspektiven ds , issue 2, 2006, Marburg 2007, ISBN 978-3-89472-576-1 , ISSN  0939-3013 .
  • René Schlott (ed.): Raul Hilberg and the Holocaust Historiography , Göttingen 2019 (contributions to the history of National Socialism; 35), ISBN 978-3-8353-3530-1 .

Web links


Individual evidence

  1. ^ Raul Hilberg , Internationales Biographisches Archiv 50/2007 of December 15, 2007 (hu), accessed on April 18, 2013.
  2. Lawrence Joffe: Obituary: Raul Hilberg . September 24, 2007.
  3. ^ Andreas Fisahn : Franz Leopold Neumann University Bielefeld, 2007
  4. In an interview with Jürg Altwegg, Lanzmann says that Jonathan Littell conceived his bestseller Les Bienveillantes after reading Hilberg and with reference to his own film “Shoah”. Marginalia volume for the book, ISBN 978-3-8270-0789-6 , p. 15. First in the FAZ.
  5. on Petschek see Heavy moral guilt . In: Die Zeit , 9/1995.
  6. History reaches into the present . In: NZZ , December 10, 2002
  7. a b Hans Mommsen: Laudation 2002
  8. Götz Aly : Logic of horror . In: Die Zeit , 23/2006
  9. ^ Yad Vashem's invitation to the symposium ; Tweet from the symposium
  10. Götz Aly, only with the permission of the Institute for Contemporary History , Perlentaucher , October 18, 2017
  11. Heinz Höhne: Seldom scruples . In: Der Spiegel . No. 41 , 1979 ( online ).
  12. a b Arno Widmann: The annihilation of the European Jews. In: Frankfurter Rundschau . August 7, 2007, archived from the original on September 27, 2007 ; accessed on February 23, 2016 . in: FR, August 7, 2007. In fact, in Unsolicited Memory , Hilberg goes into detail on his attempts to get publication, both in the USA and in the FRG, describes meetings and cites letters
  13. https://www.hundvierzehn.de/artikel/wie-das-institut-für-zeitgeschichte-raul-hilbergs-großes-werk-über-den-holocaust-blockierte?j=1685959&e=schlott@zzf-pdm.de&l = 104_HTML & u = 40519208 & mid = 6365937 & jb = 4
  14. Hilberg obituary (PDF) on zeitgeschichte-online.de ( Memento from November 29, 2011 in the Internet Archive )
  15. Hilberg: Perpetrator, victim, spectator , p. 9.
  16. Michael Kißener: The Third Reich. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2005, ISBN 3-534-14726-X , p. 39.
  17. "Holocaust:" We only know 20 percent ". The founder of Holocaust research, Raul Hilberg, was in Vienna for the conference of the new “Wiesenthal Institute”, 10. – 11. June 2006. “ Standard Interview, June 9, 2006
    Der Standard: Mr. Hilberg, do we know almost everything about the Holocaust today?
    Hilberg: “As good as 20 percent. In this country and of course in Germany the progress is already greater, but when you go to the Czech Republic, you hardly know anything. The files are not yet accessible. We don't know very much about the East at all. Second, we don't know very much about some organizations - the Todt Organization ( Forced Labor [note]) stretched from the Channel Islands to southern Ukraine. And we know very little about the life of the Jewish communities. It was not researched because certain things that the poor died first and then the wealthy - did not want to know exactly. And what about these many, many spectators? "
  18. Christian Esch: Alone with the sources , in: Berliner Zeitung , June 2, 2006
  19. Hitler- "Brief" 1919 , Nazi archive - documents on National Socialism
  20. History reaches into the present. A conversation with the historian Raul Hilberg von Götz Aly , in: NZZ , December 10, 2002
  21. Killing is not as difficult as it used to be , in: Süddeutsche Zeitung , August 7, 2007
  22. the server of the BpB lists a total of 15 different pages on H. in January 2013, mostly original articles. Search engine on the homepage of the BpB website. The 2006 speech is the last entry on him.